Perhaps my favorite afternoon in Barcelona was actually on the day we landed when we dropped our bags at the hotel, changed, and headed off to our Flat Tire bike tour. I had read about this Barcelona bike tour on other blogs and after a bit of research booked the most popular one with more than 1,200 five star reviews. We met in Plaça Sant Jaume, the Square of St. James, in the heart of the city and after counting off like day camp we went around the corner and down and alley to get bikes. After 15 minutes of logistics we were back in the plaza, each astride a brightly color two-wheel bike and ready to begin our tour.
My mom and I signed up for the Classic Route which promised to be the best way to get to know the historical city. Our guide’s name was Chrissy and after a brief introduction we got right into it, starting with the the history of the political center where we were standing. In the photo below the Mayor’s office was behind the large refugees sign and on top that building were three flags – from left to right the flag of the City of Barcelona, the flag of the country of Spain, and the flag of the region, Catalonia.
After learning a bit about all of the buildings in the political center of the city Chrissy taught us the difference between the flag of Barcelona (red and yellow striped) and the Independence flag, red and yellow striped with a blue triangle with a white start – a symbol you can see from local balconies all around the city. From the Plaça Sant Jaume we biked to the Square of the Kings where my favorite feature of the 14th century Medieval public square was the pretty windowless watch tower. I love the idea of Medieval princesses so I was practically giddy when I learned we had biked across a Roman colony that was buried under the square and that the castle was where Queen Isabella ruled and funded Christopher Columbus to explore America. Thanks for the that!
From there we passed Cathedral of Barcelona, the Palau de la Música Catalana a gorgeous building and what seems like one of the only intricate buildings not made famous by Gaudi. It was quite interesting to learn about the history, the mix of color, the complementing Moorish and Art Nouveau styles commissioned by Catalan choir that ended up being Glass, metal, and tile beauty that won the city council’s 1905 building of the year.
Speaking of intricate designs, perhaps one of the more unique buildings we passed on our bike tour was Ohla Hotel which is not famous for being a 5-star boutique hotel but instead for the ”Mur d’ulls” consisting of 1,000 ceramic eye balls stitched on to a dark blue painted façade. Apparently these were only installed after years with fighting with the local authorities but the eyes, designed by local artist Frederic Amat, went up in 2011 as a testament to the city’s art deco tradition.
Our next stop was the the Parc de la Ciutadella, once the only green space in the city, and we paused in front of the Cascada Monumental to admire the elegant fountain all of the elements of this gorgeous monument apparently inspired by one in Berlin. From there we journeyed North passed the Victory Arch or the Arc de Triomf, Barcelona which, funnily enough, they did not build for a victory, but instead constructed for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. Through the arch we went until we came to the The Plaza Monumental de Barcelona, or just the La Monumental – the city’s famous bullring that has been out of commission for the last eight years since it became illegal in Catalonia. From there we kept biking up until we finally reached the Sagrada Familia, the famous unfinished basilica which is supposed to finally be done in 2026!
After visiting the famous church, which we later took a tour of, our group literally biked straight down to the beach. The journey was a straight shot 2.8 kilometers down the Carrer de la Marina and then the Carrer de Mallorca. Once we got to the beach we stopped for another bit of history on a windy peer over looking Saturday beach goers. I loved learning how the city turned this particular stretch of beach from a shanty town to a great destination in 1992 for the Olympic Games, sparing no expense – even importing sand and palm trees from Egypt.
The pier was super windy, as evidenced from the photos, but it was a beautiful day and fro there we biked down the path parallel the beach and the Mediterranean. It was an absolutely gorgeous ride as we passed locals and tourists alike headed East toward Mont Jew in the distance. Our ride eventually took us past the El Cap de Barcelona, a surrealist sculpture designed by Roy Lichtenstein which I took a picture of, but is definitely not my type of art. At the statute we then turned, heading away from the water, and made our way back to the Square of the Kings where we started.
We had a great day!
Have you ever taken a bike tour?